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Workers hit by train had ‘no official lookouts’

Two rail workers killed by a train in South Wales in July had “no safe system of work”, the findings of an initial investigation by Network Rail and Great Western Railway (GWR) have revealed.

Michael Lewis, 58, and Gareth Delbridge, 64, died after being hit by a train close to Port Talbot.

Network Rail’s incident report said the two men were part of a group of 13 workers that were deployed on the Margam East Junction (not pictured) situated on the Cardiff to Swansea main line on the morning of 3 July.

The team was split into two groups: one  group of seven, including a controller of site safety (COSS); and another other group of six, of which Mr Lewis and Mr Delbridge were a part of.

As the operatives would be working on live tracks for periods of time, the COSS determined that “distant lookouts” would be required to alert their colleagues to any approaching trains.

The report reveals that Mr Lewis and Mr Delbridge’s group became separated into a further two groups of three staff, which compromised the number of lookouts available.

This, Network Rail and GWR said, meant there weren’t any safe systems of work being used.

In addition to the lack of an ‘official’ lookout, according to witness statements, all the men were wearing ear defenders and could not hear the train approaching.

The report said that despite the driver operating the train’s warning horn several times and three colleagues on an adjacent line shouting to them, they were unaware of the approaching train.

It also stated that those interviewed “believed that they were working in the most effective way; their view was underpinned by having an experienced team, favourable measurement against KPIs and no evidence of near misses or accidents.”

“The team were confident that they would get the work done in a professional manner. This potentially led to overconfidence and a culture that delivered work ‘their way’”, it added.

Network Rail safety director Martin Frobisher said: “The whole railway family shares the loss of Gareth and Spike. Nothing will lessen the pain but understanding what went wrong and learning from that will, I hope, go some way to reassure all those affected that we will do all we can to stop it ever happening again.

“Today is the first step in that journey as we share an initial investigation into what happened. We will continue for several months to look deeper into the root causes before we make recommendations for our organisation and all of our people for the future.”

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